More than 100 members of the US Congress have signed a letter calling on the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to explore reports that container shipping lines are refusing to carry US agricultural goods from US ports.
In the letter addressed to Michal Khouri, Chairman of the FMC, 111 members of both Republican and Democratic parties said American producers and exporters have “grappled with widespread delays, bottlenecks and increasing fees” at the country’s major ports.
“Such activity constricts entire supply chains and propels trade to move only in an inbound direction,” the letter read.
“These conditions are unsustainable for exporters, put significant strain on the US economy, and simply unacceptable.”
It claimed the US agricultural sector has been and will continue to be hit particularly hard by the delays and congestion, as 20% of agricultural production is usually shipped to foreign markets.
The US’ major West Coast gateways to China have been congested throughout the first quarter of 2021 and since China’s exports resumed in the second half of 2020.
Due to the high demand for Chinese goods in the US market, carriers have been reportedly refusing contracts for agricultural goods and are sending empty containers back to China, where demand is higher.
“Should it be found that VOCCs [vessel-operating common carriers] are predatory or unreasonable in refusing to export these American agricultural products or imposing unreasonable fees, they must be held accountable by the Commission for the harm they are causing our producers,” according to the letter.
“As the nation and world grapples with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that port operators and VOCCs honour their responsibilities and adhere to the laws that govern their roles in the global economy.
“Continued and largely unrestricted access to American ports means trade opportunities should be reciprocal. Should the investigation reveal any wrongdoing, we urge the Commission to take appropriate enforcement actions to end such practices swiftly and decisively.”